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Advent Stories: Hope

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This time of year, Christians around the world will be celebrating advent, a time of expectant waiting for Christmas. Come with us as we journey through advent together, sharing stories from those in our programs as they explore Hope, Faith, Love and Peace.

HOPE 

Mike connected with OIM 11 years ago. When we met Mike, he was homeless and in an addictions treatment program.

“I was dealt a very bad set of cards early on in my life. My childhood wasn’t happy. I started drinking heavily at the age of 16. I didn’t know joy back then. All I was doing was drinking.  At that age, I got myself into a lot of trouble and ended up in jail.

Before I knew it, years had gone by. And in that time, I lost my job, my family – everything.  

When I met OIM I was in a strange city, homeless and with a serious problem. I would get my monthly money and I would blow it in 4 hours. I was very hopeless back then.

 I came to OIM because I heard you could get food there but I got something more than food. I remember talking to Jelica at the Drop In and started to feel a bit different. I started to feel hope. I also came to the OIM office. There, the staff helped me get to my AA meetings.

I am 10 years and 8 month sober now. I don’t go to meetings anymore. Now, I come to OIM for my recovery. It reminds me of what I’ve overcome. One of my favorite words is the Bible is ‘steadfast.’ To me OIM is that – it’s like a rock in my life because they are always here. 

My life is getting better all the time because I have hope. When I got here 11 years ago that wasn’t always the story – I  was very hopeless. But then I found OIM and I ‘turned the corner’ as they say. Y’see, what you guys do is give me hope.

 When I came to Ottawa I was pretty sick, but I’m not sick today.  I don’t feel my age most days. I feel young again because my hope was restored. If you don’t restore your hope somehow it will take over the hopelessness. Now, it’s the other way around. Hope has taken over. Even though I’m still poor and I don’t have everything I need it doesn’t matter – those are the small things. I have faith that things are going to come along.

If you still have a little bit of faith left in society, in the world or in the good people, come to OIM and get it reinforced by 10.”

Listen to Mike’s Story: 

 

 

Finding purpose in low places

Have you read Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning? During Nazi-era Germany, Frankl’s wife, father, mother, and brother all died in concentration camps. Frankl himself was imprisoned and under a constant threat of death.

Despite these dark – and unimaginable – circumstances, Frankl emerged still holding onto hope. His rationale, as he explains in the book, is that even in terrible circumstances, the one freedom still left to a person is the choice of creating meaning out of one’s own life.

I don’t often think of Frankl’s book when serving our street-engaged community. But it was a casual conversation with Ken, our Executive Director, about Frankl’s account that made me think of a few of our clients who find opportunities to create meaning out of their circumstances – despite finding themselves in very low places.

Take Sandra. She is on ODSP and struggles with clinical depression, at one point becoming a recluse for a two-year stretch. While her depression remains, she now manages to get up every morning to visit with friends and to volunteer at a retirement home where she socializes with seniors and, as she puts it, tells jokes and makes everyone laugh around her!

Mandy, too, finds herself in ‘a time of waiting on God,’ she says. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago, Mandy eventually found herself all alone after her husband left her. Now, she lives in a rooming house. She is at her lowest and, while she seeks housing, she volunteers at a local soup kitchen, serving food and clothing, and providing comfort to others in similar circumstances.

And then there’s Craig. Craig’s past is littered with self- and other-destructive tendencies:  Drugs, alcohol, and childhood abuse contributed to Craig’s 30-year life of violence with stints in jail. Back then, Craig used his fists for fighting. Today, he uses his hands to fix and repair. He runs a word-of-mouth ‘handyman’ business that has him doing an array of jobs from repairing porches to painting interiors and even bike tune-ups.

Sandra, Mandy and Craig are some of my greatest teachers. They have found a way to use their challenges, their traumas, and their pain to help others. And while they have not ‘arrived’ by any means – and who has, really? – it is their continual search to create purpose and meaning in the midst of their circumstances, that constantly encourage and inspire me.     

Jelica, Staff